We all know the classics, the titles we have to watch every year. When I was a child, “A Christmas Story” was high on the list, particularly because I dentified with Ralphie and his attempt to get a Daisy Red Ryder. Some of us even got Daisy Red Ryders, which was when we discovered they are capable of propelling a BB with such force that it can severely dent a piece of paper.
Even in adulthood, we still revisit it even if we’re now dealing with kids who want toys that aren’t nearly as dangerous. Don’t fret, though, we can always throw a switchblade in their stockings.
As parents, we’re no longer Ralphie, but Sparky, as in Clark W. Griswold. “Christmas Vacation” replaces “A Christmas Story” as the film that most captures the season. We are filled with good intentions and dreams of having everyone, or as many people as possible, gather at our house. Then the floor guy leaves you hanging, and you lose the use of your downstairs play area, the realities of hosting set in, and you decide to head outside for the season.
If you’re the prime minister of the United Kingdom or just a movie critic with horrible tastes in Christmastime romantic comedies, you may eschew those two classics and instead go for “Love Actually.” You should not do this, even if you are the prime minister. “Love Actually” is a flaming dumpster fire of a movie — Christmas, rom-com, or otherwise. Don’t watch it, even when you find yourself in a situation in which you’re sort of forced to watch it. It’s the “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” of movies.
If you’re looking to spice things up, try different movies. You can celebrate the season with these four classic films that will have you laughing like a jolly old elf and remembering that all is right with the world. You’ll even be able to spend the season indoors, at least mostly.
Sure, “Trading Places” was released during the summer, not Christmas. It’s about brothers who own a commodities brokerage firm attempting to test nature versus nurture using Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) and Louis Winthorp III (Dan Aykroyd) as pawns. Seasons don’t even really factor into it, unless we’re talking about how weather affects orange juice.
One pivotal scene takes place at a Christmas party, however, when a drunken Louis wanders into his old firm dressed as Santa Claus in order to plant drugs in Billy Ray’s desk. If that doesn’t scream Christmas to you, I don’t know what does. The story also includes redemption, overcoming differences to work together, and bad guys getting what’s coming to them.
It’s a tale as old as time. A father wanders into a random shop looking for a Christmas present for his son, Billy, and buys him a random creature he’s never seen before that comes with many odd instructions.
Gizmo the gremlin turns into the gift that keeps on giving in the form of hyper-violent, self-replicating, reptile-like creatures who go on crime sprees. This, like most Christmas movies, comes to an end when Billy and his girlfriend blow up the local movie theater, taking all but one of the gremlins with it. Gizmo and Billy finish the last one off with a blast of sunshine, and everyone sings carols. It’s truly heartwarming.
‘Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas’
This is the most out-there film on this list, barely even qualifying as a Christmas movie. Produced by Jim Henson, it follows the story of a mother and son — Emmet Otter and his ma, named Ma ‒ as they attempt to win a talent competition. Emmet wants to use the winnings to buy Ma a piano; Ma wants to buy Emmet a new guitar.
After a series of twists and turns, and a solid washtub jam, they lose the talent competition to a rock band with a snake for a drummer. On the way home, they score a gig performing in a local restaurant. It’s a childhood favorite and perfect for the Christmas season, particularly if you think family, selflessness, and togetherness are more important parts of the holiday than explosions and making sure the bad guys get what’s coming to them.
Speaking of bad guys getting what’s coming to them, lots of bad guys get what’s coming to them, good and hard, in this classic Christmas film. It would be a Hallmark movie, if it weren’t busy being too awesome ever to air on the Hallmark Channel.
Police officer John McClane arrives in Los Angeles, where his wife Holly has moved from the small town of New York for an exciting career. Despite her newfound success, and some would-be Lotharios, terrorists help remind Holly of her true feelings and of the true meaning of Christmas after John thwarts the terrorists’ plans, kills a few of them, blows some things up, and she punches a reporter. Like I said, it’s basically a Hallmark movie, only good.
Of course, there is a variety of other movies you can and should watch this season, but don’t forget the classics. Don’t get caught up in looking for alternatives when the truth is right there, ready to greet you with cheer. Merry Christmas and yippee-ki-yay.